Find Your School

Found Near You

Our Blog: June 29, 2016

Promoting Healthy Physical Development in Your Child

It’s possible that as a result of lockdowns and learning from home, we may have spent the past couple years being more sedentary than we would like—especially as families. It’s the perfect time to get moving and to encourage healthy physical development in your children.

When children grow, it’s a process, a gradual move from one developmental stage to the next. For example, you must walk before you can run. Physical development refers to a child’s ability to move, coordinate, and control their body in two categories: gross and fine motor skills.

Gross motor skills means controlling large parts of the body, such as arms and legs. Fine motor skills means the coordination of small body parts, such as hands and fingers. Parents can foster healthy growth by providing opportunities to practice new skills as well as promoting healthy eating habits during these important childhood years.

We know today’s families are busy and schedules are usually full. That’s why these activities listed below are simple, inexpensive, and very kid-friendly.

  • Move! Provide an environment that encourages lots of time and space for energetic (and noisy) play.
  • Stretch! Get warmed up by stretching and gently wiggling toes, feet, legs, arms, and fingers. Gently stretch your neck by looking from side to side and then up and down.
  • Get outside! Set aside family time for a hike, walk, or visit to a nearby park. Play games that involve running, hopping, throwing, and catching together.
  • Switch things up! When playing ball, ask your child to use alternate feet for kicking or alternate hands for batting. You want to make sure the ball is large enough to promote success, yet small enough to present a challenge.
  • Limit screentime! Discourage inactivity by limiting TV viewing and video/computer game playing to less than two hours a day.
  • Rock and roll! Try rolling games. How many different ways can we roll? Slow and fast rolls, arms at side, or one arm up and one arm down.
  • Be helpful! Invite children to help with dishwashing and other activities around the house.

Another big part of your child’s development is nutrition. Parents are the best resource here, according to the Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, and Board on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Here are their suggestions:

Introduce New Foods: Parents serve as role models by introducing new foods in a persistent but non-coercive fashion. Studies show that repeated exposure is most critical during the early years of life and that it can take five to 10 exposures to a new food for a child to accept it.

Prepare Smaller Portions: In addition, parents should also consider serving smaller portion sizes, encouraging children to stop eating when they feel full, and avoid using food as a reward.

Stock Healthy Food: Parents also should stock their homes with healthy products, particularly fruits and vegetables, to encourage their children to choose them as snacks.

Remember when introducing physical activities or healthy foods, it’s essential that parents present them in a positive, cheerful way. Of course, you’re never too young (or too old) to commit to health and nutrition. It all starts with one small step.

What will be your first step toward a healthier lifestyle?